South Downs Nature Reserves

Nature Reserves on or near the South Downs in East Sussex

Ditchling Beacon Nature Reserve
Ditchling Beacon, just south of the Downland village of Ditchling, has had a long association with human beings. An obvious vantage point, it was used as a prehistoric hillfort and later for lighting beacons to send warning signals along the coast. There are stunning views from this loveliest of South Downs Nature Reserves, across the Sussex Weald in the north and towards Brighton and the English Channel in the south. From here, you can walk west along the South Downs Way to the Jack and Jill windmills and beyond to Pyecombe, Devil's Dyke, Chanctonbury Ring or all the way to Winchester. Alternatively, walk east towards Lewes and on a clear day you should just see the cliffs of the beautiful Seven Sisters in the distance. There's always (or almost always) an ice-cream van in the car park at the Beacon car park, even in the winter. If you'd like a nice hot cup of tea then you'll have to walk down to Ditchling village and visit Chestertons or Dolly's Pantry; for something stronger there's a couple of great old pubs - 'The Bull' and 'The White Horse'. Ditchling also has a fascinating old museum with a gift shop and tea room.

Woods Mill Nature Reserve
Woods Mill is primarily a reserve for people, a place not only to visit wildlife, but to learn about it too. There are numerous guided walks throughout the year, as well as more formal educational events for adults and children alike. Woods Mill is open throughout the year, with a large car park and toilets.Access to the offices and toilets is suitable for people with disabilities. The nature reserve currently has limitedaccess for people using wheelchairs, but improvements are in hand to create a suitable circular route. No dogs as this is one of the South Downs Nature Reserves which is also an education site.

Withdean Woods Nature Reserve
Withdean Woods is a steep, wooded hillside overlooking Withdean Stadium, within a residential area of north Brighton. This area of woodland provides a local refuge for wildlife and people, away from the bustle of the city. The best way to get to this 1 hectare reserve is to use the Park and Ride bus to Withdean Stadium. Street parking can be difficult as this is a residential area. Unsurfaced footpaths cross the site and there are some steps and steep slopes along the route.

Lewes Railway Land Nature Reserve
Nestling on the flood plain of the River Ouse, just on the edge of Lewes, this South Downs Nature Reserve consists of 25 acres of mixed habitats, including wet woodland, floodplain grassland, ponds and species rich drainage ditches, former fruit orchards and allotments, and scrub areas. The site was, until 1989, occupied by extensive railway sidings, and the embankment of the former Lewes - Uckfield railway line. We have a restored signal box overlooking the flood plain meadows, which has doubled as a bird hide and a small class room. There are a network of footpaths across the site, including a disabled access path which runs from the main entrance on railway Lane, to the Signal box, which also has wheel chair access.
Tel: 01273 484408

Landport Bottom Nature Reserve, Lewes
Set in 44 hectares of Down land, Landport Bottom encompasses three large fields, offering spectacular views over the Sussex countryside. The site is owned jointly by Lewes District Council and Lewes Town Council, and is part of the South downs AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). It is also of significant archaeological importance, being the site of the Battle of Lewes in 1264, and contains a Scheduled Ancient Monument. There are numerous footpaths across the site, offering great views over the Downs and the Ouse Valley. There is also a small Dew Pond close to the training gallops, which has been restored, and is slowly returning to ecological diversity.
Tel: 01273 484408

Seven Sisters Country Park
Situated in the Sussex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the Seven Sisters Country Park is one of the most beautiful of the South Downs Nature Reserves; it comprises 280 hectares of chalk cliffs, a meandering river valley and open chalk grassland. It is a popular place for a number of outdoor activities including walking, birdwatching, cycling and canoeing. The Country Park is named after the famous Seven Sisters that form part of the chalk cliffs on the Sussex Heritage Coast, one of Britain's finest unspoilt coastlines. The Park is a great place to explore on foot and offers spectacular views of the Seven Sisters cliffs, Seaford Head, Cuckmere Haven and the surrounding rolling downland. The Park is a working farm with grazing sheep and cattle, and therefore you are kindly requested to keep dogs under close control at all times.You can really enjoy walking through the park to the pebbly beach just by the Seven Sisters cliffs - it's a stunning beach with some invigorating swimming. Just watch out for under-currents as the tidal River Ouse reaches the sea at the edge of the beach.

Arlington Reservoir Nature Reserve
Although located several miles inland from the South Downs, the Arlington Reservoir is in a delightful setting and offers a beautiful location to simply sit and watch the birds and wildlife. There is a footpath around the reservoir which is about a mile and a half long, and passes by the Osprey Bird Hide. The reservoir is a favourite location for migratory birds between March to October, and up to 10,000 wildfowl overwinter here, hence its designation by English Nature as a 'Site of Special Scientific Interest'. Look out for Ospreys, Reed Warblers, Green Woodpeckers, Herons, Kingfishers and badgers. While the reservoir was being excavated several interesting animal remains were found, including a mammoth tusk, a bison horn and the skull of a woolly rhinocerous dating from 250,000 years ago.

Nature Reserves on or near the South Downs in West Sussex

Pulborough Brooks, West Sussex
Set in the heart of beautiful countryside, walks in Pulborough Brooks Nature Reserve lead through hedge-lined paths to viewing areas and hides where volunteers are often on hand to help point out the wildlife. If you're new to birdwatching, introductory walks and courses are held throughout the year. In winter, the flooded meadows teem with ducks, geese and swans. In spring, wading birds, such as lapwings and redshanks, breed amongst the pools and ditches, and nightingales and warblers sing from the hedgerows.
Opening times and Entrance charges :
Visitor Centre 9.30 am-5 pm daily; nature trail sunrise to sunset.
RSPB members free. Non members: £3.50 adult, £2.50 concessionary, £1 child, £7 family (two adults and up to four children).
Contact details:
Tel: 01798 875851

Arundel Wetland Centre, West Sussex
Arundel Wetland Centre has 26 hectares of naturalised landscapes and wetland habitats holding many hundreds of exotic wildfowl from around the world. Set in ancient woodlands in the middle of the South Downs; adjacent to the River Arun; overlooked by the historic Arundel Castle skyline the centre also attracts many wild birds to the lakes, reed beds and woodland areas on the site. Free Safaris on quiet, electric boats are offered everyday weather permitting. Gliding along the waterways of the new Wetlands Discovery area you can discover the joys of seeing wild flora & fauna in their natural environment.
Tel: 01903 883355

Amberley Museum Nature Trail
Although I don't think that this is an official nature reserve, it is a most beautiful natural environment where wild orchids, such as the Fly Orchid, grow. Located in 36 acres of an old chalk quarry, this open-air museum has a number of nature trails running through its unspoilt Downland environment.

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